Every story should have a beginning, middle and end (BME). One of the many literacy skills a child needs to learn early on is is BOTH to identify BME of any stories, and to write a story with a clear BME. The Picture Book Teacher (here) has a great blog post on the importance of beginning, middle and end.
“Identifying the most important event from the beginning, middle and end of the story helps a reader understand how organization, sequence, and plot make a good story. This can then be applied to their own writing.“
Part 1: DRAWING, STORYTELLING and BME
At home, I am starting to help Kai (5 years 9 months) organise his thoughts so his stories have a clear beginning, middle and end. And since Kai loves to draw, what better way to help him structure his story by asking him to draw in BEGINNING, MIDDLE AND END boxes!
Note: Although there are other templates you can find on the Internet that have BOTH the picture boxes, and lines at the bottom, I don’t want to pressure Kai to write by including the lines. I’d rather him focus on his pictures, and he can later decide on which stories he wants to turn into written work.
It is very important to help children come up with and organise ideas before asking them to write. Some common problems that I have seen in young children’s stories include:
- The story has parts that don’t connect
- The story jumps too quickly from beginning to ending
- The story abruptly ends
- The story goes on and on and on and doesn’t end
After Kai draws, I always listen to his story first. Sometimes I ask him to do it in English, at other times Chinese or Japanese. Here is an example of how I listen, and ask questions to clarify his ideas. I call this strategy #Touchandtell, which I have blogged in detail (here)
On top of Kai telling him the story, I also do a lot of storyscribing at home to encourage storytelling. And the surprising thing is, even though Kai is not the one writing, his writing has improved. HOW? By encouraging Kai to first focus on his storytelling, he can rely on “orally conveying the importance of his story” without worrying about the written form (full article here). He can focus on the sequencing, the logic and the plot. Here is my previous blog which explains a bit on #storyscribing (here)
Therefore, as parents, we need to give opportunities for BOTH storytelling and writing since these skills support each other, but are separate skills. You can be a great storyteller, but not an especially talented writer, and vice versa. When you ask a child to write a story on paper, there are many technical aspects that are involved: writing capital and lowercase letters, sounding out words, adding correct punctuation… All these could sometimes discourage children from writing even though they may have an interesting story to tell.
And that is why if your child does not want to write, it doesn’t mean they cannot work on their stories. You can help them develop storytelling skills by listening to their them and giving feedback. You can storyscribe for them so they can see their words turn into text. Below is a story that Kai told me in Chinese and Japanese. By telling his stories first, he is making “key decisions about his writing with me as model and coach.” By having him draw in BME boxes, he is prompted to sequences his ideas before storytelling, well before writing.
Part 2: WRITING
Kai worked on writing his story the following day on a foldable writing template that I created (scroll down to the downloads at the bottom). Because he has already planned his story in drawings, he could then focus more on the mechanics. To help Kai with the flow of his stories, I added transition words/phrases on the back of the writing paper so he can refer to them as he writes.
English/ Chinese version
Chinese/ Japanese version
Here is how the template can be folded to better support Kai in writing his story:
In the end, this was what Kai came up with. This is pretty good for a 5 years old!
“On Wednesday I went to see lanterns. The rabbits were holding a lantern. I said it was so cool! Inside the Flowers Dome, we saw another rabbit. He is making mochi. In the end, we saw a moon and two stars. It was so nice. We took a taxi back home. I was tired”
Finally, this is how I store all the papers. If I child doesn’t want to write, I’d ask them to keep drawing so that there is a pile of ideas for when they are ready to write. All the ideas are illustrated on paper already!
All of Kai’s other stories are on his Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/scribbles_to_stories
UPDATE: Kei, who is now 4 years 8 months, seem to be ready to use this BME template to draw and write. Below are his stories:
Here are all the downloads. You can print the templates on A3 paper so there is enough space for your child to write!
Updates (February 2022)
Part 4: Other writing support
If you are already following me on Instagram, you’ll know that I am a huge proponent of letting my children write stories without expecting that they need to have mastered their phonics skills.
My boys use a lot of reminders when writing. Kai, who is now 6.5years old, runs up to the Vowel Teams chart on the wall to check when writing in English, and refers to his Japanese hiragana chart when writing in Japanese.
Similarly in Chinese, I have high-frequency words on sticky notes, and they are always encouraged to check (not cheat)
If you are like me, whose children are not going to formal Chinese school where students are expected to write in a highly-structured way, and prefer that they express their creativity through story writing, these high-frequency charts may help. I came up with these characters based on what kids have been writing in the past.
These are available in Simplified and Traditional Chinese!
Part 3- Identifying Parts of Speech in your child’s stories
It has been almost 6 months since Kai has first started his BME story-writing. We are ready to incorporate a bit of grammar practice by having Kai re-read some of his older stories, identifying 3 verbs, 2 nouns and 1 adjective. I call this the #letsfind321 strategy.
Here is a poster and smaller reminder notes for anyone who would like to try!
If you have enjoyed reading this blog, here are my other blog posts about writing that you may find helpful:
- MUST-HAVE literacy resources to support your child at home (Ages 1-7)
- Setting up a writing center for a 6 year old
- Offering structured choice to encourage writing
- Using “Touch and Tell, Touch and Say, Touch and Read” strategies to foster independence in writing
- What we need to know about children’s stages of writing development
- How we practice writing Chinese at home without using any worksheets
- 10 ways to use sticky notes to support literacy at home
- Using the Story Grammar Marker (SGM) to support reading, writing and speaking
- Guiding your child to write authentically (3-5 years old)
- Ways to encourage your toddler to write stories at home